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University of Iowa News Release


April 6, 2007

Photo: Shannon Oneil from the V.A. Hosptial of Central Iowa in Des Moines and Mike Olesen from Skiff Medical Center in Newton examine potential biological terrorism organisms on culture plates.

Workshop Prepares Iowa Labs For Biological And Chemical Terrorism

The University Hygienic Laboratory's (UHL) "Identification of Bioterrorism Agents: Wet Workshop" drew 29 clinical laboratorians from across the state for hands-on practice in identifying, testing and packaging agents that may be potentially used in biological and chemical terrorism. The two-day event was held at the UHL Iowa Laboratory Facility in Ankeny March 27-28.

"The scientists who completed this training work in Iowa's sentinel laboratories, which are generally located in hospitals and are on the front line of detection of a biological terrorism or outbreak event," said UHL Interim Director Chris Atchison. "Through this hands-on experience in identifying and handling these agents they will be far better prepared to identify and respond to the threat of terrorism."

There are 143 sentinel laboratories in Iowa. This is the fourth year UHL has hosted the training that combines lecture and lab experience, giving scientists an opportunity to refine techniques used in collecting and handling specimens, identifying infectious substances, and notifying authorities if an agent of bioterrorism is suspected.

"Wet workshops are designed to give the clinical laboratorian hands-on experience with the identification methods for Category A organisms," SAID Bonnie Rubin, UHL emergency preparedness and terrorism response coordinator. "Category A agents are those organisms and toxins that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has put as the top concerns for potential bioterrorism, including anthrax, botulism and smallpox.

"In addition to practical experience using the identification tools, laboratorians received updates about the chemical terrorism response laboratory network and information about timely issues related to emerging organisms and pandemic influenza planning," Rubin said.

The University Hygienic Laboratory is the state of Iowa's environmental and public health laboratory, with facilities located on the University of Iowa's Oakdale Campus in Iowa City and at the Iowa Lab Facilities in Ankeny, a Des Moines suburb. Among its many services, the laboratory functions as a consultative and analytical support facility for state agencies, health professionals, and citizens. UHL is part of the University of Iowa and has developed and maintained effective and productive collaborations with the Iowa Department of Public Health, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Geological Survey, and local public health agencies.

UHL performs analyses on samples from virtually all matrices, including human clinical specimens, air, drinking water, wastewater, soil, sediment, industrial effluents, oil and fish. In addition to performing analyses by specified methods, the UHL provides methods development and procedure verification for nonroutine analyses. Additional information about UHL, its programs and services is available online at

STORY SOURCE:  University Hygienic Laboratory, 102 Oakdale Campus, H101 OH, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-5002

CONTACT: Pat Blake, 319-335-4177,

PHOTO: Photos of the UHL are available by contacting Pat Blake at 319-335-4177,